MENSTRUAL BENEFIT BILL
Author: Tanisha Maheshwari, I Year of B.A.,LL.B(Hons.) From Christ (Deemed to be University) Delhi NCR.
Menstruation has been an extremely sensitive and troubling topic since time immemorial. We have failed to recognize and take notice of how imperative it is to talk about it. People have always been hesitant and continue to shy away. With each passing year, we have progressed practically in almost every sphere but it's saddening and dejecting to see mankind falling behind in concepts as basic and vital as menstruation. Not just in rural areas but also in progressive societies there is paucity of awareness. We have euphemized the term period with "that time of the month" or " I am down" and continue to view it as derogatory. At the workplace, such issues become a huge conundrum as manifold factors get involved. There's a dearth of basic understanding of how for some women it might be highly excruciating unlike some who undergo trivial changes. Striking out a balance of both personal and public aspects can be very taxing bringing in the need to have a healthy and productive workspace.
An inching step towards the ongoing need of menstrual awareness can be seen in the form of the "Menstrual benefit Bill" 2017 proposed by Ninong Erin with the aim of removing disparities and allay and addressing menstrual issues at the workplace.
To name a few; Section 4 of the act provides for paid menstrual leave to employed women and leave from school to girl students above class eight. It is an extremely vital and imperative provision. Women will also be entitled to have thirty minutes break twice a day under section 5 of the bill. Section 10 further provides for punishment to anyone who denies women their leaves and entitlements. Such a comprehensive bill is of pressing priority.
Albeit the bill hasn’t been passed it is an effective step towards removing gender specific societal stigma Such steps are based on Intelligible differentia (intelligible basis of creating differentiation) and rational nexus (further the concept of equality) since government under article 15 clause (3) is entitled to make special provisions for people which does not act in contradiction to Article 14 of the constitution instead it further the aim of equality. Deliberations and framing of laws cannot be discarded on the grounds of being a gender specific issue. Article 42 of the constitution specifically provides for humane work conditions and maternity leave which hasn’t sparked any gender discriminatory conversations or the provisions of reservation for providing disadvantaged sections with level playing field.
INITIATIVE BY ZOMATO another reformist and forward initiative was taken by Zomato by providing women with ten days of paid leaves. It ameliorates the current situation of women who comprise a reasonable proportion of the workforce. Taking into consideration such issues and deviating from norm of identical treatment foster a culture of equality and act as a catalyst for bringing change.
It might come across as a new concept for certain sections of society however there are regions that have been upfront since the very beginning. In the State of Bihar, female government employees have been availing paid leaves since 1992. Kerala is one step further in providing menstrual leave to girls since way back from 1912.
The judiciary has been actively addressing the issue. A PIL was filed by Delhi Labour Union seeking paid menstrual leave of four days to all classes of women. It brought into light the reality of the situation and ensuring preservation of fundamental human rights. The court directed the government to take address the PIL in accordance with provisions in the law.
Courts have been fostering inclusivity. Citing Sabrimala case in which menstruating women were barred from entering into the temples and worshipping due to impurity which was direct infringement of right to equality.
There are two polarised opinions on this subject matter.
people who are in compliance with it. The basis of creating this difference is intelligible hence it is in furtherance of equality and promotes gender sensitization by coming under the ambit of affirmative action. Being a biological phenomenon, we cannot hold women liable for seeking benefits of such provisions since it is an inevitable process. Symptoms can be highly debilitating and severe for some women, confining to not just cramps but body aches, nausea, headaches, bloating, fatigue, etc. Hence, such provisions become vital to assuage the suffering and create a healthy work environment. Differential treatment becomes important for ensuring access to equality more than hampering it.
on the contrary, some people believe these provisions will result in hesitation and predilection against the female workforce and will have a bleak outcome and exacerbate the already worsen situation. Or some men might object and demand paid leaves for themselves since it is seeming gender-biased. It will go against the notion of inclusivity or hinder the pursuit of equal opportunities. Owing to the biological aspect of this phenomenon it might not be similar for everyone. It will end up with feeling of segregation and alienation. Provisions comes across as generalising and gendering which will ultimately hamper the inclination of companies towards hiring female employees.
As progressive citizens its need of the hour and high time to cease the distasteful comments and stigma linked with menstruation. Juxtaposing contemporary scenario with a decade back we have come a far way in terms of progress. Demeaning and belittling people on an ineluctable biological phenomenon shows of the society we come from and it must be eradicated from root level and impacts of entrenched forms of inequality should be minimised.